I am a member of a group called SpeakEasy, which is a group of bloggers that helps authors promote their book through free advertising and book reviews. The following review is actually my first post as a part of this group, and I’m very excited to be sharing this with you. If you’re a regular blogger and would be interested in something like this, go check it out!
I’ve had an interest in Christian contemplation now ever since I was a freshman in college. When I say that, I mean that I find it an interesting concept, but I myself have never seriously undertaken a decent attempt to develop a good contemplative life. I’m a pretty scatter-brained person with a severe lack of self-discipline, so routines like the divine hours, while beautiful and enriching, are insurmountable to me (at least I think they are). I would venture a guess that I am not alone in this; many members of my generation don’t handle structure well at all.
Enter Carl McColman with his book Answering the Contemplative Call: First Steps on the Mystical Path. As I mentioned above, this book was given me by SpeakEasy for review, so here we go.
The back of McColman’s book lays out his purpose in writing it: the transforming power of Divine Love is available to everyone, and contemplative prayer is a journey into the heart of God. What McColman is aiming to do with this text is to guide newcomers who wish to encounter God in a new way. He utilizes the metaphor of a long journey (sometimes to a fault) to illustrate the way in which all contemplatives pursue the heart of God through diligent prayer, reflection, and teaching. He also utilizes a very, very wide range of mystics both popular and unknown to make his points. This gave me the opportunity to look into different mystics completely off my radar, such as John Tauler, a German mystic
McColman’s style is easy to follow, but you never feel like he’s dumbing down what he’s saying to you. As I stated above, he does use the journey analogy a little too much, but it makes the things of contemplation incredibly relatable. I actually really likeed this point, because contemplative writings can be really heady sometimes; you’ll read a whole chapter and have no idea what that person even said. Also, though his book is written from a Christian perspective, McColman makes it clear that this book is for any member of any faith (or lack thereof), something that differentiates him from some other authors on the subject (Richard Foster, for example, wrote The Celebration of Discipline pretty much for Protestant Christians).
I think if I had had this text when I began reading about the mystics and their practices, I’d be in a much different place in my own contemplative journey. All the same, I’m glad to have it now. I highly recommend this text; it’s easy, endearing, and accessible; what contemplative Christianity needs!